1996 Daytona 500
|Race 1 of 31 in the 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season|
|Date||February 18, 1996|
|Location||Daytona International Speedway|
|Course||Permanent racing facility
2.5 mi (4.02336 km)
|Distance||200 laps, 500 mi (804.672 km)|
|Weather||Temperatures reaching up to 63 °F (17 °C); wind speeds approaching 13 miles per hour (21 km/h)|
|Average speed||154.308 miles per hour (248.335 km/h)|
|Driver||Dale Earnhardt||Richard Childress Racing|
|Qualifying race winners|
|Duel 1 Winner||Dale Earnhardt||Richard Childress Racing|
|Duel 2 Winner||Ernie Irvan||Robert Yates Racing|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Terry Labonte||Hendrick Motorsports|
||Robert Yates Racing|
|Television in the United States|
|Announcers||Ken Squier, Buddy Baker and Ned Jarrett|
(13.9 million viewers)
The 1996 Daytona 500, the 38th running of the event, was run on February 18 on the Daytona International Speedway. The winner was Dale Jarrett (2nd win). Dale Earnhardt won his first Daytona 500 pole, leading many to believe he would finally win the race. Ernie Irvan returned to full-time competition alongside Earnhardt (both drivers won their respective Gatorade 125-mile qualifying races).
Reigning Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon was eliminated on Lap 8 after getting a light tap from Jeremy Mayfield. Goody's 300 winner Steve Grissom, with Rick Mast, Joe Nemechek, & Rusty Wallace were involved in a chain reaction incident after Gordon hit the wall. Mast and Wallace's car were relatively undamaged, but former Busch Series champions Grissom and Nemechek lost several laps after repairs. On Lap 29, Earnhardt's ignition failed, triggering a wreck for Ernie Irvan. Wally Dallenbach, Jr., who couldn't see Earnhardt, tagged Irvan and sent him into the wall.
Due to a new rules package, the lead changed hands early and often. At Lap 50, no one besides Dale Earnhardt and present leader Terry Labonte had spent more than 4 consecutive laps in the lead. Lap 54 saw 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope clip the Turn 4 wall in the Bobby Allison car, ending his day.
On Lap 77 Sterling Marlin (Marlin had won the race in 1994 and 1995) took the lead for 3 laps before he had engine problems. Not much later, Terry Labonte, from whom Marlin had taken the lead, began to drop back with overheating issues after leading a race-high 44 laps. Labonte managed a decent finish, but Marlin retired almost instantly from the lead. The new leader was IndyCar veteran John Andretti. He and Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Dale Jarrett Ken Schrader, and Michael Waltrip were all prime contenders at halfway. On Lap 131, after 72 laps of green flag racing, Andretti, whose uncle Mario won the race in 1967, had a hard crash in Turn 2. Michael Waltrip clipped him as he tried to sneak past Andretti's spinning car, damaging the right-front fender. The damage seemed to improve the car's aerodynamic qualities. Shortly after the restart Mike Wallace suddenly snapped loose and collected Loy Allen Jr., Brett Bodine (all 3 done for the day), and Bobby Labonte; the Texan's car was relatively undamaged.
Run to the finish
Geoff Bodine and Lake Speed crashed at Lap 159, collecting Bobby Hamilton, Chad Little, Robert Pressley, Jeff Purvis, and Morgan Shepherd. This prompted the final pit stops. 1993 Daytona 500 winner Dale Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott decided on a four-tire change, while the RCR duo of Earnhardt and Petree opted for two. Bud Moore, whose car and driver Wally Dallenbach Jr were not yet sponsored for the season, were going to gamble that their full tank of fuel from the previous caution would be enough to finish. Even so, Dallenbach kept the #15 in the lead pack in the waning laps. Earnhardt quickly dispatched new leader and last year's Rookie of the Year Ricky Craven. He lost the lead briefly to Ken Schrader, but at Lap 177 Jarrett passed him with four fresh tires. Earnhardt could keep up with Jarrett, but he could not repass him, resulting in Jarrett's second 500 win in four years, followed by Earnhardt, Schrader, Mark Martin, and Jeff Burton.
1995 NAPA 500
|NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
1996 Goodwrench Service 400